How Islam Honoured Women In The Past, And What We Need To Remember Now

It’s crystal clear what values the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) stood for, and what path he paved for the world to look up to.

It’s crystal clear what values the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) stood for, and what path he paved for the world to look up to.

Islam has always been the center of debate regarding women’s rights. There is a general notion prevailing around the world that Islam deprives women of their basic rights.

Critics often say, “Muslims often look down on their women and misogyny dominates their culture.” It’s a bitter pill to swallow for Muslims as what they learnt from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) regarding the status of women in society was quite the opposite of the perception prevailing in today’s world. 

Dating back to the advent of Islam, it was the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) who advocated for women’s rights like a ray of light in the era of darkness. In a society where having no access to education for women was mainstream, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) stood up for their education.

His wife Hazrat Ayesha (radiallahu anha) was amongst the most highly educated persons in society. She was one of the most learned women of her time, and her knowledge of Quran, hadith, medicine, and Arabic history surpassed the knowledge of most Muslim men of her time. She was also one of few persons to narrate more than 2000 hadiths.

Additionally, it was due to the educational rights of women advocated by the Holy Prophet that Fatima al-Fihri went on to establish the world’s first university: the University of Al-Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco. Established in the year 859, the University of Al-Qarawiyyin was the first degree-granting university. Rufaida al Aslamia (radiallahu anha) was also the first female nurse of Islam who made an immense contribution in the field of science and medicine during the early days of Islam. Khawla bint al-Azwar (radiallahu anha) and Nusaybah bint Ka’ab (radiallahu anha) were among many Muslim female warriors who were renowned for their valour in Arab society.

Education was also made mandatory for every Muslim, irrespective of gender in the society. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “A father gives his child nothing better than a good education.”¹ This statement refers to both sons and daughters. No community can progress where women lag far behind in terms of education. We all know the role of a mother in bringing up her child and to compromise on her education is like compromising on the future of society. 

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The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) forbade female infanticide and made daughters a pride of family by saying, “Lucky is the woman whose first child is a daughter.”² He preached kindness and good conduct in bringing up daughters. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) also said, “If anyone has a female child and doesn’t bury her alive, or slight her, or prefer him male children to her, Allah will bring him into paradise.”³ He further said, “Whoever has three daughters and accommodates them, shows mercy toward them, and supports them. Paradise is definitely guaranteed for him.”⁴

Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wassalam) had deep love and affection for his daughter, Hazrat Fatima (radiallahu anha). He raised her with utmost care. He would say that Fatima is a part of me, and he who makes her angry, makes me angry. When she would enter the house, he would stand up for her, kiss her hands and make her sit in his place. His love for her daughter was an inspiration for the world to follow and raise them with the same affection as the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) did.

At the time, when women previously had no right to inherit the property of their ancestors, Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) made it mandatory for a household to have a women’s share in the property. Muslim women of the Arab society were privileged thereafter, and some of them became great businesswomen. At the time, when women were not allowed to even marry someone of their own choice; the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) made forced marriage invalid. He further went on to instruct the men of the society to treat women well, and said, “The best of you are those who are best to their wives.” [5] 

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) would himself cook and put the morsel in the mouth of Hazrat Ayesha Radiallahu Anha out of pure love. The Holy Quran says, “And of his signs is that he created you for you from yourself mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and he placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for people who gave thought.” [6]  

He was the one who dignified the status of mothers. Once a man approached him and asked, “Who among the people is most deserving of my good treatment?” The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “Your mother” thrice. [7]

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The Holy Quran says, “And we have enjoined upon man to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship. Their period of weaning and gestation is thirty months. In time when child reaches their prime at the age of forty, they pray, My Lord! Inspire me to always be thankful for your favours which you blessed me and my parents with, and to do good deeds that please you.” [8]   

Knowledge is the water that extinguishes the fire of ignorance. Today Muslims need to introspect and discover more about the remnants of their past. They need to read more about their forgotten past. Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) left his life as an example for the world to follow. We shouldn’t be strayed by ignorance and follow our whims and desires what Islam never taught us in the first place.

The Holy Prophet spent his entire life advocating for the rights of women. It’s crystal clear what values the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) stood for, and what path he paved for the world to look up to.


¹ Jami At-tirmidhi 4977

² Al- Kafi, Volume 2, Page 6

³ Ibn Hanbal, No. 1957

⁴Jami At-tirmidhi 1916

5  Jami At-tirmidhi 1162

6 The Holy Quran, Chapter 30, Verse 21

7  Sahih Muslim 2548

8 The Holy Quran, Chapter 46, Verse 15

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